Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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What a guy ...

Pat Robertson says God is punishing Ariel Sharon for dividing the Land of Israel.

Count 'em: 17 recess appointments this evening from the president -- including a slew of cronies and hacks the president couldn't manage to get through a senate controlled by his own party. Here's the list just posted at the White House, which TPM Reader JW was kind enough to send us.

Crony all-nighter!

From Roll Call: "President Bush is expected to announce a list of recess appointments to a host of key federal positions as early as tonight or Thursday morning, including two controversial nominations that Democrats have attacked as patronage appointments for unqualified nominees."

Former senate staffer Tracy Henke and Julie Myers (wife of Michael Chertoff's chief of staff and niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Richard Myers) are the names the article mentions. Both are in line for DHS appointments.

I shudder to think what the final story will be with this breaking news that Ariel Sharon suffered a "significant" stroke tonight in Jerusalem.

The latest word is that he has been rushed into surgery to alleviate "massive bleeding and [that he] was being transferred to an operating theater."

Needless to say, I'm no doctor. But 'significant' in this context sounds to me like a euphemism for 'major'. And coming right on the heels of a relatively minor stroke only weeks ago, that sounds very bad.

I won't speculate any more on the medical prognosis; but what is the fate of the recent tectonic shifts in Israeli politics -- Sharon's bolting of Likud in conjunction with the major shift in the direction of Labor Party -- if Sharon is no longer on the scene?

Late Update: These details don't change the basic story. But I just wanted to update this post by noting that Sharon did not fall ill in Jerusalem but rather at his ranch in the Negev. And he was driven by ambulance -- an hour long drive -- to University Hospital in Jerusalem. According to the sketchy reports contained in this late Ha'aretz article, his episode began with chest pains and later developed into paralysis of the lower body. The web headline in the Jerusalem Post as of 6:16 PM is: Sharon fighting for his life.

Haaretz: "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was rushed into surgery at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem late Wednesday night, after intra-cranial bleeding was detected, following what doctors described as a 'significant stroke.' There was no immediate assessment of the damage he may have suffered. Doctors said earlier that the prime minister was receiving breathing assistance as his condition was assessed."

Okay, this really does require a bit more explanation.

As John Aravosis points out here, Andrea Mitchell is pretty clearly telling us that she has at least some evidence that Christiane Amanpour got swept up in the warrantless NSA eavesdropping that's been in the news for the last two weeks.

To me, since there's so little we know about the methods and targets of this surveillance, the key issue is that, whatever the substantive merit of these wiretaps, doing them without a warrant seems to have violated the FISA law.

If the present law doesn't allow something that is indeed necessary, the president has to get Congress to change the law. At a minimum, the president needs to fully inform Congress of what he is doing and the legal/constitutional basis upon which he believes he is acting.

Otherwise, Congress isn't in a position to exercise its constitutionally mandated oversight role.

Yet the president is arguing that his powers as commander-in-chief give him the authority to set aside that law. Such an unlimited assertion of presidential authority just has no place in our constitutional system; and his continued assertion of such authority is a plenty big enough scandal right there.

But if this were to take a truly Nixonian turn and it turns out that this was being used against political enemies, anti-war groups or journalists then we're talking a whole 'nother ballgame.

More reporting needed.

Late Update: Now apparently NBC has edited the detail about Amanpour out of the transcript.

WaPo: "Jack Abramoff represented the most flamboyant and extreme example of a brand of influence trading that flourished after the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives 11 years ago. Now, some GOP strategists fear that the fallout from his case could affect the party's efforts to keep control in the November midterm elections. Abramoff was among the lobbyists most closely associated with the K Street Project, which was initiated by his friend Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), now the former House majority leader, once the GOP vaulted to power. It was an aggressive program designed to force corporations and trade associations to hire more GOP-connected lobbyists in what at times became an almost seamless relationship between Capitol Hill lawmakers and some firms that sought to influence them."

"DHS to Base Grants on Risk" -- headline at the Washington Post website. Another memento of our up-is-down world.

I'm waiting for: "Fireman to prioritize buildings on fire."

"The sick to be first in line for medicine."

Actually ...